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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Camillo and Paulina
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1401  Thursday, 7 June 2001

[1]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Jun 2001 13:24:34 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1384 Re: Camillo and Paulina

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Jun 2001 14:43:57 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Camillo and Paulina


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Jun 2001 13:24:34 -0400
Subject: 12.1384 Re: Camillo and Paulina
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1384 Re: Camillo and Paulina

Prof. Teague argues that the similar plot elements among Othello, Much
Ado, and Winter's Tale account for the marriage of Paulina to Camillo.
The plays follow Classical comedies of the slandered woman (Hero,
Desdemona, and Hermione) and her staunch female defender (Beatrice,
Emilia, and Paulina).

Yes, these plays may have a basic structure, but, as I suggested before,
there are marked variations on this base. Hero and Desdemona are
slandered by villains, Don John and Iago.  Othello wants ocular proof,
and doesn't get it; Claudio gets his ocular proof, and doesn't bother to
question the word of a known villain. Leontes is not deceived by a
villain, but perhaps overhears Hermione saying, "If you first sinned
with us . . ." (1.2.86 Oxford ed.), and misinterprets the context.
Hermione is nine months pregnant, and Polixenes has been visiting for
nine months. Also Hermione may have a crush on Polixenes.

At play's end, Beatrice marries Benedick, the guy in the white hat;
Emilia is married preplay to the guy who is disguised in a white hat;
and Paulina is married preplay and will possibly marry again postplay. I
think there is a good deal of variation here, and the marriages may be
differently interpreted -- if one likes to interpret such things.

So, I don't think that Leontes is driven by plot structure to push
Paulina and Camillus together as the play ends.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Jun 2001 14:43:57 -0400
Subject:        Re: Camillo and Paulina

Leontes match-making between Camillo and Paulina at the end of WT raises
the question of whether he has learned anything over "this wide gap of
time."  On the one hand, he appears to have the best interests of his
servants in mind; on the other hand, he seems to think that only
Camillo's feelings on the matter need be consulted.  Readers will
remember that at the beginning of the play, Polixenes and Leontes share
the notion that women are the root of all evil -- a view that Hermione
objects to right away, and for obvious reasons.

I suspect that Leontes joins Camillo and Paulina because it makes him
feel better -- not the most noble of reasons.  In fact, he is the most
self-centered character in the play, and I see little evidence that he
ever changes. If we stop and think about the plot for a moment, WT is a
play in which servants and women suffer, endure, sacrifice, and lose
continually, all out of loyalty to a monarch who seems (at least to me)
not worthy of those who continually prop him up. He's more than a bit
like Autocylus, continually leeching off of others by preying on their
charity, good will, and credulity.

I suspect that a contemporary audience would see more than a little of
James in this 1609 production. Leontes starts the play on a nine-month
holiday (What of affairs of state?), and the mood throughout is one of
royal lassitude, inertia, even groggyness. Where is Leontes' concern for
the state? for anybody but himself?

I'd suggest that one way to read WT is as a question from Shakespeare to
his audience: Is this king and the political system that empowers him
worth your time, effort, attention, and loyalty?

The answer, I believe, is "No." [Is that "cynical" enough for you,
Mike?]

--Ed Taft

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